Ocado Retail CEO to be City Food lecturer 2021

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Organisers of the City Food Lecture have announced that the 2021 lecture will be given by Mel Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, the world’s largest dedicated online supermarket.

Formed in August 2019, Ocado Retail is a 50-50 joint venture between M&S and Ocado Group. It is responsible for ocado.com, online pet store Fetch and Ocado Zoom, a one-hour grocery service. Ocado Retail serves 350,000 households a week and has a 15% share of the UK online grocery market.

Smith has had an impressive career in the food and retail industry to date. She began her career at McKinsey, where she spent 12 years and became a partner, gaining extensive experience advising leading grocery retailers on their operations. She left McKinsey in 2009 to join TalkTalk as the executive director of operations and integrations, and subsequently moved to Bupa to serve as the global marketing and strategy director. In 2017, Smith joined Marks & Spencer as strategy director, before being appointed as the CEO of Ocado Retail in August 2019. She is also on the board of directors of SSE plc and is a Trustee of Sadler’s Wells.

Held annually normally at London’s Guildhall, The City Food Lecture is one of the most prestigious events in the industry’s calendar and is supported by premium sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. It is organised by the seven City of London livery companies involved in agriculture and food: the Worshipful Companies of Bakers, Butchers, Cooks, Farmers, Fishmongers, Fruiterers and Poulters. It brings together 700 industry leaders, academics and liverymen and students from leading universities.

Due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the City Food Lecture 2021 will be presented as a virtual event but with a studio broadcast live from our keynote speaker and panellists. It will be thought provoking, interactive, lively and certainly an event not to be missed. The date is Wednesday 10 February from 4.45 until 7.15pm

Following the lecture, there will be an interactive question and answer session with a panel of food industry specialists chaired by Charlotte Smith, Presenter of BBC’s Farming Today. The three panellists are: Charlie Bigham, the well-known food entrepreneur specialising in providing his own branded high quality ready meals for major retailers, James Walton, chief economist of IGD, which provides insight training and research for the food and grocery industries, and Laura Winningham, chief executive of City Harvest, the London-based charity tackling food poverty.  

Smith is the latest in a line of prestigious speakers that in recent years have included Dutch scientist, academic and broadcaster Professor Louise Fresco, Dominic Blakemore, group chief executive of Compass Group, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis and former Cadbury Schweppes chairman, John Sunderland.  

John Giles, the chairman of the City Food Lecture organising committee, said: “With the pandemic creating so many changes in the way we buy and consume food, Mel’s lecture couldn’t be more timely. I’m sure her insights into online grocery retail will ensure the 2021 lecture will be fascinating for all who attend.”